Midjourney AI – Imperfect Deception

Recently I’ve been toying with Midjourney – an AI image generating software that is currently causing much hype online. All of the images on this page are output from a computer algorithm.

After getting over the initial fun of writing nonsensical prompts to see what resulted, a thought occured. Could Midjourney create a photo? Could it create a photo good enough to fool others into believing it was taken by a famous photographer?

A few of these AI systems have been around a while now, with each resulting in images that although interest-piquing have always fallen short of ideal. Now though, with other systems like Dall-E2 and Midjourney, we’re quite near to a time of asking for any kind of image and receiving it. To use Midjourney, one types a prompt into a box and waits around a minute for the images to be revealed. Out of the 4 images suggested, any can be upscaled to be larger or chosen to generate new variants from. A fresh, unknown Vivian Maier picture could be discovered any moment. In fact, here’s a few now!

The first reveals a small issue with faces in certain situations. There are ways around the rather striking results Midjourney generates here, but at first glance these photos are indeed street photos of 1970s Chicago, kinda in a Vivian Maier style.

But what if you don’t like Vivian Maier, or indeed monochrome street scenes? Here’s some Midjourney riffs on Saul Leiter, a fan of shooting bright colours on rainy days.

Ok so at this point very few people will believe these are photographs, but they’re potentially paintings at a first glance, perhaps Hopper.

Maybe you prefer some British seaside shots, courtesy of Martin Parr, but you know, when the weather is terrible, not sunny in the slightest.

If you look closely at all these images, it’s clear they’re not authentic photos, the humans being especially iffy, but at first glance they’re not bad. From what I’ve seen of Dall-E2 and a couple of other AI image generators coming soon, we’re on the brink of being able to create new photos of places we’ve never been to, perhaps with people in that would never be there.

This raises a very important ethical question – is this my work? Well my work is in the VFX business and my LinkedIn is swarming with Midjourney AI generated concept work, with many not explaining where the images came from, bar a Midjourney hashtag. Understandably, in this age where folk look at tonnes of images a day, others don’t ask where the image came from and presume it an authentic post by the OP. The OP may get hired based on that, rather than the finished results of their actual skillset. If they get hired that’s great, but the material they used to get hired is as much a reflection of their abilities as yours.

Currently to prove authenticity in photographic competitions and the like, one has to provide the original RAW file or similar proof of ownership of the rights. How long before folk get duped into believing AI-generated entries, especially made on a phone by those who have never shot RAW?

Most importantly, can one generate a photograph of a Durdle Door style rock formation without leaving home?

Yes, yes it can. Not convincing just yet, but as a small image on a blog, yes.

Finally, can it create a photo of a squirrel? Um… well… I’ll let you be the judge.

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